I’ll call him Drew. Though, as it says in the title, that’s not his real name. Which is, symbolically, the point of this story. But lemme tell you the story first. And then I’ll get to the point.
I picked “Drew” as his “cover-name”, because he reminded me of Drew Carey. Not the current Drew Carey. The Drew Carey before he acquired a personal trainer and radically altered his diet.
There were multiple similarities. Both Drew Carey and “Drew” were quintessentially Midwestern, Drew Carey haling from Ohio, my “Drew” coming from Indiana. Both are stockily built, sport short-cropped, dirty blonde hair and wear unfashionable glasses. Both also emanate a, what can only be described as, a natural Heartland politeness.
The other way “Drew” resembled Drew Carey, or at least the Drew Carey of The Drew Carey Show, is that “Drew” was a faceless drone toiling anonymously for some major corporation; in “Drew’s” case, it was a Big Box emporium that seemed to sell everything.
The company “Drew” worked for required him to wear this oversized, logo-branded, maroon vest, to complement his khakis and checkered shirt, though, since “Drew” was rather largish, it looked better on him than it would have on a lower-weighted person, who would very likely have been issued the same vest.
Okay, so we needed a new storage shed for our Michiana cabin, our previous shed having been flattened by a falling tree. This had been the third tree that had keeled over in our area in less than a year. Apparently, our local trees have a “time-release” message encoded in their DNA, and when the clock hits that time, down they come.
We know nothing about sheds, except that we needed a new one. So we took ourselves to this giant store that sold everything. As we pulled into the parking lot, we immediately spotted a line of about a dozen storage sheds, of various sizes, designs and prices, the prices doubling if you wanted the shed assembled, which we did, because, as multi-talented as we are, “do-it-yourself” shed assembly is not the strongest part of our repertoire. We studied the sheds, made our selection, and we went into the store.
That’s when we met “Drew.”
“We’d like to buy a shed.”
“I can help you with that.”
The problem was, he couldn’t. At least, not capably.
Drew fired up his computer, accessing the shed model we were interested in. The trouble began with the measurements.
“What size would you like?”
“Eight by ten.”
“Eight by ten. Okay. That would be…eight hundred square feet.”
“Drew” had mistakenly added an extra zero. A harmless error. If it weren’t a portent of things to come.
Our order required us to answer a series of questions. Our responses would provide us with exactly the shed we wanted. And would also determine the final price.
As we expressed our preferences on every shed specification – “Do you want a window?” – “No"; “Electric heating?” – “No” – there were about a dozen of these – “Drew” dutifully recorded our responses on his computer.
Finally, we were done. Drew pressed the “Print” key to print out our order. But, rather than printing it, our order immediately vanished from the screen. Gone. “Drew” pressed numerous keys trying to get it back. But to no avail. Our order had entirely disappeared.
We would have to start again from the beginning.
It was back to the questions: “Do you want us shingled roof?” – “Yes”; “Would you like a floor?” “Yes.”
Our order is now complete. Again. “Drew” presses the “Print” key. Our order disappears.
Drew stands by his computer, fidgety and perplexed.
“I don’t know what’s going on.”
He was right. He didn’t.
After three calls to other departments for instructions on what to do, “Drew” was finally “got it.”. It was now just a matter of answering the questions one final time.
“Would you like your shed painted?” – “Yes”; “Which color would you like – white, gray, red or brown?” – “Brown.”
Did I mention that we’d bought movie tickets before we went shed shopping, and the movie was starting in five minutes? We thought we had left ourselves plenty of time. Of course, we had not counted on running into “Drew.”
We apprised Drew of our dilemma, promising to return the following morning to complete our purchase. “Drew” remained Heartlandishly polite.
We took off for the movies. And, as promised, we returned the following morning.
“Drew” accessed our order. We were in business; it was still there. The final step was to ring up the purchase and pay.
“Drew” was unable to ring up the purchase.
Imagine our frustration. We knew what we wanted. They had it in stock. The credit card was in my hand.
But we couldn’t buy the shed.
Because “Drew” couldn’t ring up the sale.
After a series of SOS calls to various superiors, “Drew” finally managed to get the computer to print us up a bill.
Our task was now completed.
Okay, so here’s the thing. Everything I’ve told you about our shed purchasing experience is true. Down to the minutest detail. But I have to tell you, I have a problem with this story. I thought about not posting it at all. I deliberately left it out of “Notes On A Midwestern Vacation.” But, you know, it’s like you’re strolling along the beach, and you catch sight of this remarkable seashell or some one-of-a-kind-looking stone. And you can’t pass it up.
The problem is, the story succeeds at somebody else’s expense.
Sure, I disguised his name, not to mention that it’s highly unlikely that “Drew” or anyone who knows “Drew” will ever read this, but I’m not sure that’s the point. “Drew” wasn’t put on this earth so I could use him as material. Yet that’s exactly what I did. By making the decision to tell this story, I am exploiting someone else for personal advantage. Something doesn’t feel right about that.
I realize I’m having to both ways here – telling the story, and then expressing my discomfort for having told it. Just so you’ll know that I know that I’m doing it. Which is not too classy itself.
Bottom line, I guess I just couldn’t help myself.
I’m a writer. And somebody handed me “Drew.”